The Wildcat defense did all it could against No. 8-ranked Louisville, coming up with three three-and-outs and causing three turnovers, but the offense was never able to capitalize on its opportunities, and K-State (3-1) lost its first game of the season 24-6 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"The disappointing thing was that when you get those opportunities against a team like that, you have to capitalize," coach Ron Prince said after the game. "You have to make those count if you are going to pull off an upset like this, and we didn't do that. That was a very challenging team we played, among the nations best, and we stood right there toe-to-toe with them for a while."
Not capitalizing on turnovers
Louisville (4-0) had three straight possessions where K-State took the ball back via turnovers.
The Wildcats caused three turnovers on three straight Louisville possessions in the third quarter. K-State started in the Cardinals territory on two of those drives, but could never put any points on the board. The Wildcats lost the ball on downs on the first drive, had to punt on the second drive and kicker Jeff Snodgrass had a field goal blocked on the third drive.
Louisville would not give K-State another golden chance, and scored a touchdown on its next possession to push the lead to an almost insurmountable 24-0 in the fourth quarter.
The best drive for the Wildcats came towards the end of the first half. They had a 12-play drive, and got the ball all the way down to the Cardinal 14-yard line before Prince called a timeout. He decided to take a couple more shots at the endzone with less than a minute to go in the half, and it proved to be the wrong decision. Quarterback Dylan Meier received a heavy pass rush, and was hit as he tried to throw the ball to wide receiver Yamon Figurs. The ball was intercepted, Louisville entered halftime with a 10-0 lead and K-State's temporary momentum was crushed.
"The pick was crucial because we needed that momentum going into the half," said Meier, who was 14-of-33 for 121 yards with one interception. "We showed flashes of greatness but just didn't have enough. It was also very frustrating when the defense kept giving us the ball in good field position and we couldn't do anything with it. We need to start getting points out of those opportunities."
Clayton answering critics
Running back Thomas Clayton had only 12 yards rushing on seven attempts entering the fourth quarter. He said he is starting to get sick of hearing all the criticism about ‘when is he going to break out and do something big'. He decided to make a statement in the fourth quarter.
On the first possession for the Wildcats in the quarter, Clayton took the handoff and ran 69 yards straight through the heart of the Cardinal defense for a touchdown. He looked determined as he was spinning out of tackles and picking up extra yards on every rushing attempt. He had 107 yards rushing in the fourth quarter on only eight carries, bringing his total for the game to 119 yards rushing. He was also the leading receiver with five receptions for 34 yards.
"It was a basic play. I saw the seam and hit it, and that's the end of the story," Clayton said of his long touchdown run. "Everybody keeps asking me when am I going to do it big, and I hope I answered some of those questions today.
"Today was a chance for us to measure how good of a team we are, and I think we are going to be a really good team."
Prince has said many times that he wants his team to be bold and daring. He wants his players to be unafraid to try for the big play, and he will call his plays accordingly. Unfortunately, he called gadget plays that just didn't seem to work against Louisville.
The first one was a reverse pass by wide receiver Cedric Wilson in the second quarter. He took the ball from Clayton on the reverse and then dropped back to pass. His pass was well short of the intended receiver, and it was intercepted by safety Jon Russell.
Prince tried another trick play late in the third quarter where Meier threw the ball to Nelson behind the line of scrimmage. Nelson turned around and threw it downfield to tight end Jeron Mastrud who was wide open. Nelson underthrew Mastrud, and the Cardinal defender was able to get to Mastrud and break up the play. Had the pass been completed, the Wildcats would have had a first down inside Louisville's 20-yard line, and Mastrud might have even scored.
"The plan was to be bold and daring. We wanted to try to seize an early lead," Prince said. "We weren't really trying to play the game just to get it to the fourth quarter and be close, we were trying to win the game. We were going to see if we could play with these guys."